This post is in response to the following article on http://www.goal.com:
Ok, I work in this field somewhat and have been in it one way or another for a long time directly. Main points:
- What he is really on about is training volume. How much is right, how to build it up. The methods are good but arguable, as you can train with specificity and still put it together session by session.
- What he is really on about and mentions but doesn’t go into is **recovery** which is highly individualized. It’s also a very scientific field and one that doesn’t lend itself to clear explanations to lay readers because it mostly says, “everyone recovers differently and the same person recovers after an equally appearing hard effort differently as time goes by in a season” .. Hence, he doesn’t go there, but THAT is what is all about these days in several major sports codes (I work with rugby players).
Here are some details in basic format.
a. Training = Effort PLUS Recovery
Most people, diets, fads focus on the effort and little on the recovery as most average people don’t really need much scientifically (go as you feel)
b. Recovery from effort is different for everyone
c. If you take a very long time to recover from a big effort you won’t have time to have another effort and lift your training. Thus, VOLUME matters and not just the total load but HOW YOU DELIVER IT. At least if you want to get to a total level of fitness
To make matters really “cool” and “interesting” this varies by person as well.
d. Not only that, but as time or a season goes by your ability to recover can degrade. The same effort (big game) takes longer to recover from.
e. The real kicker… there are no good measurements of total recovery. Biochem tests like Lactate tests etc are good at muscle effort, but not so good for counting the pounding, collisions and other factors that play into total muscle and joint fatigue. Equally, we do work with rugby players where we use impact on lungs and the moderate pulmonary edema as one factor of how hard a match it was (or we are trying to anyway, it’s research)
What it says is that the totalload the EFFORT in my simple equation is not just how much you ran but other factors.
f. The second real kicker… different positions have different efforts and fatigue.. This comes from the part where different positions have different profiles of effort. A midfielder may run more than a striker but spends a lot less short, intense efforts followed by pushing on a brick wall like Per.
Different work = Different fatigue = Different recovery
g. Finally, it is not just time for recovery; it’s how you do it. That matters too and can help or hinder. It will be conflicted by:
- different needs of different players and positions
- need to prepare for next game
- need to keep starters integrated in practice efforts
All of which run counter to a subject specific approach so you can meet team goals. I would note here that the article writer trained WC squads who don’t have these issues (all ready at once), a short “season” and so on.. That is far easier than a 40 week league + 2 cups + Europe season. Note how those teams outside Europe seem to be “more fit”??
Some side points, there is a huge amount of unproven science out there. The basics he puts forward are good but must also work within the team’s needs to win and have a season long plan. In particular, there often arises what I believe to be the “sport specific fallacy” which indicates that to train effectively one must train the sport.
The sport specific fallacy has one real problem; it is in fact very much true. You do need to train the sport to be good at it. But, I would argue that you do not need to play football entirely to become better at it. The goal is to have high intensity within the sports motions and action for limited periods and recover. So far, it is what was said in the article. However, one should mix that with efforts that focus on the game after being fatigued by prior work. Cyclists do this a great deal with specific power training on the bike, since they simply cannot race at intensity every day. In football, you cannot play at the full intensity too often or you burn out mentally and/or pick up injuries. What he proposes is fine for a pre-season or a world cup but we get our injuries during the season, beginning, middle and end, where it is far harder to manage.
Building blocks that make a whole structure, rather than making whole buildings each time.
The mixture of that and sport specific training in combination with a season is what makes the entire problem hard. Build, over-stress, recover. It is still a simple recipe. Just a very hard one to make with the tools at hand.
Thus, why is Arsenal so injury hit? IMO, speculatively, three factors:
1. INTENSITY: The EPL is more intense, not so much faster (it is), but faster longer. It is also intense in being more physical, more collision and intense in being more competitive top to bottom than other major leagues. BM, RM et al have very few “losable” games in their leagues. Sure they lose some but reality is most teams are far, far weaker. It allows recovery if you have the squad, especially if the games are less intense
2. DEPTH: Thinner squad. We are 18 strong, City are likely 25-30 strong. It has an affect in the environment of #1 above. This will hopefully improve. Witness Tottenham the last few years, great for 80% of a season with minimal or no Europe and then (crash)… For us, tragically less likely this year if they gel.. Note, depth is not just any player because if they really cant contribute at your top level you likely wont play them as much as you should or need to because of the team’s need to win.
3. FOCUS: Arsenal tend to play for all the cups in the last few years. Desperate fans have better squads out for League Cup where ManU plays the local high school squad (longer in the cup), I think. We tend to go for everything full out more so than others. We are thus more consistent than them in going far (out of group stage something like 14 straight years in CL) but pay a price that may hinder us from going all the way given a slight shortness of DEPTH
If you are looking for a fourth one, well, all these three are affected by refereeing and the culture of the game, where it’s a bit rougher in the EPL, at least in my opinion.
So, overall, I don’t disagree entirely with this link, but it is a very complex subject, and, in my opinion, one that is much more about recovery than training; and one that is a big deal for many major international codes. How to recover optimally (fast and well) and how to tell, first up, how long a player needs to recover so they can train best … Very very very hard for that next game without crossing a line and leaving themselves injured or set up for injury. No matter what else gets published in the here and now.
I.e. they wouldn’t pay people like me to keep looking if the answer was already known!
Written by: jgc